Creative City art competition heats up

An illustration of the "Balancing Ground" project. Credit:

When engagement public artist Amanda Lovelee heard about the city of Minneapolis’ Creative City Challenge she saw it has an opportunity to work with her friend Sarah West, who had moved to Kentucky.

“We dreamed of the day to work together,” Lovelee said of the fact that West is part of her group that has a proposal in the finals of challenge’s second year of competition.

The city partners with Northern Lights, a nonprofit that supports local arts in public sphere, to create a temporary artwork in the green space behind the Minneapolis Convention Center. Last year, an interactive Twitter-enhanced MIMMI balloon that reflected the positive and negative mood of the city won the competition.

Former Mayor R.T. Rybak said the competition was created to celebrate public art in the city. He said the goal is “to give you an element of surprise” in a public space for the residents and visitors to come together as a community.

Lovelee and her group presented their proposal, Balancing Ground, to more than 75 students in Rybak’s “Mayor 101” class at the University of Minnesota. A jury committee selected the final three proposals out of 13 proposals. The public will vote for and select the winning proposal. The public can view the three proposals and vote on a favorite through Feb. 28 at

‘Meditative Space’

Balancing Ground is a mix of a wooden frame of a church-like building without walls and the outdoor landscape of the Minneapolis skyline.  

“The concept is a place between balance and chaos,” Lovelee said.

She said three areas in the “building” – a stage, seesaws, and benches – would contribute a unique component to the artwork. The stage will be a place for performances. Park visitors can get a ride on a seesaw and listen to voices of Minneapolitans and natural city sounds. Benches will be a place for people to reflect on their thoughts in the middle of their busy city. The building will also have prisms that will use natural sunlight.        

Other Proposals

Another finalist project is Spark, lead by project leader Will Peterson, which includes more than 100 recycled-metal flowers. Peterson said, “Spark … will draw people to the plaza.” The shiny metal flowers will be activated by a few hand-activated pulse systems that, when touched, will change the color of the wireless-connected flowers.

The third project in the finals, Chrysalis, by Wil Natzel and Jerry Natzel, starts with several archways to a tower. They will use plastic and cardboard to create the structure.

Representatives of all three groups said they are making sure their installations, if selected, will be accessible to anyone. Lovelee said the floor leading up to the church building would be slowly elevated from the grass, so it will be wheelchair-friendly. There might be a seesaw, she said, that would use hands instead of legs.

The competitors also have made plans to get rid of their work, if their piece is selected. Lovelee said her group would donate the wood for Habitat for Humanity. Peterson said his group wants to auction off individual flowers to raise money for local artwork. Natzel said most parts of their project would be recycled.

Rybak and his students praised all three proposals as ones that would add beauty to the city and engage the community.

Jenny Ackerson, a senior in Rybak’s Mayor 101 class, said, as an architecture major, she critiques proposals such as the types of projects entered. “It’s so well formed,” Ackerson said of Balancing Space group’s project.  

“They seemed most engaging to me,” she said.

Anthony Ratnaraj is studying journalism at the University of Minnesota.